Paris-Nice: Valverde, Sanchez need better showing on stage four
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paris-Nice: Valverde, Sanchez need better showing on stage four

by Conal Andrews at 7:59 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Paris-Nice
 

Caisse d’Epargne team leaders Alejandro Valverde and Luis León Sanchez know that a strong performance is needed on today’s fourth stage of Paris-Nice, following a slightly disappointing showing yesterday.

Both riders missed the six-man move which went clear on the final climb of stage three and while the time losses were minimal, the fact that they were unable to follow GC rivals Alberto Contador (Astana), Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Peter Sagan (Liquigas – Doimo), Tony Martin (Columbia HTC) and their former team-mate Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) will be worrying.

Today’s summit finish at Mende is far harder and any weaknesses will be compounded by the unforgiving climb.

“I feel really sorry for not having been able to take advantage of the great job my team-mates did,” admitted Valverde after the stage. “I hope to feel better tomorrow [Thursday] in a stage which could be decisive.”

The Murcian is normally lethally effective on short, sharp ramps due to his explosive power, and so his absence from yesterday’s move was surprising. His team worked to set things up for an attack by him and by Sanchez, but things didn’t go to plan.

“A three-man breakaway made a gap of seven minutes with the pack and at that moment we decided our team had to take the responsibility of the race,” he said, detailing the tactics. “We started chasing to bridge the gap. All the team worked hard not only to control the race but also because we knew that we had a good opportunity to win the stage.

“The idea was to attack in the hill situated at three kilometers from the finishing line but it was not possible to achieve what we planned. Besides the fact that I was not good placed when we started climbing the hill, my sensations were not good enough to be able to come back in front of the race.”

In contrast, Sanchez was very close to the front of the bunch when it hit the climb, and so his positioning was not an issue.

He won last year’s Paris-Nice after Alberto Contador suffered hunger knock and faded out of contention. Sanchez is a taller, heavier rider than his former team-mate and will perhaps face his biggest examination on today’s steep final climb.

He started today’s stage just nine seconds behind Voigt in the overall standings. Tour of the Mediterranean victor Valverde is 30 seconds back due to a poor showing in the prologue.

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